A husband and wife from Essex who wed when he was 17 and she was 51 are due to celebrate 19 years of marriage – despite family and friends saying it wouldn’t last. Jay Barham met mum-of-two Linda, who is 34 years older than him, in 2000 when she was giving him driving lessons. They bonded over their love of music and soon had a whirlwind romance, deciding to get married. At the time he met council youth worker Linda, Jay was a trainee and just 17 years old. Their loved ones were shocked at the union. Jay worried about his parents, who are a decade younger than Linda, while Linda worried about her son who is close to Jay’s age. But nothing stopped them from being together and eight months after meeting, they decided to get married. Now Jay, 36, and Linda, 69, are due to celebrate 19 years of marriage in July, with both insisting they are ‘more in love than ever.’
Jay and Linda are unbothered by people’s comments about their age gap. ‘The biggest positive about being married to an older woman is the civility, being able to speak about feelings and not pushing them under,’ said Jay. ‘We have adapted our lives [for Linda’s age] for example instead of walking ten miles we’ll go for a ride in the car. ‘People have said horrible things to us in the street. We just got on with it, even now people frown on it. Linda has been called a child snatcher, I’ve been called a granny basher. ‘We’ve been called names in the street, and sometimes people think she is my mum. But we don’t care what people say. ‘Our marriage has lasted a lot longer than many others and we are still very much in love.
‘I think the secret is spending so much time together, we love each other and we do everything together. ‘The only thing we argue about is the cat, and even then we never go to bed without sorting everything out.’ Linda thinks there is some hypocrisy in judging older woman more so than older men that have young partners. ‘If it’s a man then you’re doing well for yourself, but then if you are a woman then you’re disgusting and frowned upon,’ she said. ‘We just love each other, we haven’t done this for fame or for money, we just love and think about each other.’ She had some reservations at first though. ‘I just thought: “this is wrong”, I felt awful,’ she added. ‘But I was divorced for five years, my children were all grown up and knew that it just felt right.’
When the couple got married, Linda was still able to have children but Jay was never keen on being a parent. He enjoys being a step-granddad to Linda’s seven grandchildren, who are aged between four weeks and 18 years old. ‘I never wanted to be a father, I’m one of those people that just keep the toys to myself. ‘I’m just not the parent type, I much prefer having grandchildren as you get to give them back.’ Jay also says he and Linda continue to have a great sex life. Jay wasn’t a virgin when he met Linda and had three serious girlfriends before her. ‘You don’t just stop having sex when you reach 65,’ he said.
She still has that drive, I don’t know why people think you die sexually at 50.’ Now that their families are well acquainted, they go on holidays together but some have mistaken Jay’s dad and Linda to be his parents.
They also get the occasional looks at home. People often think Linda is Jay’s mum. The couple now looks back at their 19-year relationship and the wedding they had eight months after meeting. A lot went wrong on the day including the car breaking down and the ring being too small, but they were just happy to be husband and wife.